The Dark Knight

Everyone remembers seeing The Dark Knight at the theater. Whether you were eagerly anticipating its release or aren’t the biggest fan of Batman or movies but got dragged to the premier with your friends anyway, you were there. It was one of those event films that transcended the typical movie-going experience. And while Christopher Nolan has made equally engaging films before and since, this is the one that he’s best known for. Fresh off of its 10th Anniversary, how has The Dark Knight continued to stand out in the ever-crowded field of superhero movies?

I think the simple answer is that it doesn’t belong in the same category. Sure, there are comic book characters filling up the screen and delighting fans of the source material, including yours truly, but that’s where the similarities to all those other adaptations end. Nolan always kept his Dark Knight Trilogy teetering on the edge of plausibility and that’s what makes the events that occur truly frightening. With all due respect to Thanos, I don’t think any of us will ever live to see an invader from another planet emerge through a wormhole in search of magic stones.

That’s not a knock on Infinity War or any of the other Marvel movies. They are the very best at thrilling our imaginations and filling the entertainment aspect of our lives with super powered idols. It’s just that here we are faced with people and occurrences that we may never see in our real lives, but we certainly could. Nolan’s Batman used his resources to procure military-grade equipment. His Joker didn’t have his mind and skin warped by a tumble into a vat of chemicals, but is just a naturally born sociopath who wears makeup. And while I have doubts over how long a person could live after having half of their face burned off, Two-Face is merely the disfigured survivor of an explosion. Given current events and today’s political climate, I think we all feel a little uneasy when a hospital is blown up or innocent people get shot down in the street. Heightening the realism is Nolan’s method of ensuring that his film will always resonate with audiences as a crime drama for the ages.

That also means that The Dark Knight isn’t genre restricted, playing out as much like a neo-noir movie as a superhero one. It helps that Nolan’s inspiration for the story can be found in graphic novels like The Long Halloween, which featured Batman, Gordon and Dent’s crusade against organized crime and Dent’s doomed and inevitable transformation into Two-Face (my personal favorite). There’s also a little bit of The Killing Joke in there, where the Joker postulates that anyone can be driven mad by experiencing one truly horrifying day. Is this not the very idea that winds up tipping Harvey Dent over the edge? These are stories that reveal far more about human nature than they do about the struggle between good and evil and they are expertly translated to the big screen, especially in the form of the film’s antagonist.

Ledger’s Joker is infamous for multiple reasons, from the initial fan backlash when his casting was announced, to the toll that the role took on the late actor’s personal life before his tragic death, and of course the posthumous Oscar that he deservedly won, but I think the villain maintains his relevance because of how atypical he is. In short, this Joker is a manifestation of our very worst fears: he’s unpredictable, and even worse is that his attacks are aimed not at our heroes’ health or livelihood, but at their souls. How do you fight someone who has no clear motive and, as Alfred so wisely surmises, “Just wants to watch the world burn?”

That’s the question that Batman and Gordon are left to grapple with, and the only solution they find is to let Batman take the fall for all of Two-Face’s crimes. Fitting that an impossible ethical dilemma can only be resolved by an equally impossible decision. Being the hero that your city deserves but doesn’t need usually means you don’t get a happy ending. It takes a lot of balls to write a finale like that, but more importantly it requires a certain level of freedom that superhero movies are never afforded. Even when the MCU goes against the grain, future sequels guarantee that everything will eventually be righted again. Luckily, Nolan was given that freedom and had the talent both on-screen and behind the camera to pull it off.

And while I could wax poetic about The Dark Knight until the sun goes down, it is by no means a perfect film. Christian Bale’s much maligned Bat-Voice is absurdly over the top, and because Nolan shot certain scenes with IMAX cameras, the aspect ratio is constantly shifting. I did watch parts of the movie on Netflix recently and the picture stayed in widescreen the entire time, so maybe that’s only exclusive to the home release. And while this is really out of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s control, it always bugs me when a character is recast in the sequel. These are minor annoyances for me, large drawbacks for others and flaws that nevertheless prevent The Dark Knight from being a true masterpiece, in this humble writer’s opinion.

Still, it remains one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had at the theater. I vividly recall the audience alternating between laughing and gasping as the Joker outwitted his foes on both sides of the law, then breaking into applause after various set pieces. I also can’t help but revisit the film at least once or twice a year. When you know all the twists and turns but can’t help but get sucked in all over again, I think that’s when you know the filmmakers made something special.

And then there’s the overwhelming sense of remorse that hangs over the whole picture. That our protagonists made the best of a very bad situation, but nothing more. As Batman runs off into the night, Gordon’s son looks on in bewilderment. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”

I’m not sure that Batman would agree.

Date Night with Deadpool and MoviePass

My previous experiences using MoviePass have been pretty Quiet because I’ve gone Solo (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!). Which, if you read my reviews, helped create fun and memorable experiences. It was also really easy to use MoviePass which helped justify me going alone. MoviePass is a great tool that encourages you to see as many movies as possible even alone. However, try using it on a date or with a group of people and you might run into issues.

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The Social Stigma of Seeing Solo, Solo with MoviePass

I vividly remember the first time I ever went to the movie theater to see a movie by myself. It was a rainy night in 2009. My girlfriend was out of town and I couldn’t convince any of my friends to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with me. Which is not too surprising since this film had a relatively quiet release and had only really caught my interest because it featured Heath Ledger in his last role prior to his death. In fact he didn’t quite finish the film and it had to be reworked with a little bit of Johnny Depp, a dash of Colin Farrell and some Jude Law.

I recall being nervous to go to a movie by myself. I remember my girlfriend found it peculiar and at some point I was having second thoughts. I was paranoid that the strangers around me would see I was alone and they would wonder why I would do such a dumb thing. As the previews begun I felt my fear wash away. I felt myself eager to transition into a temporary bliss of distraction. And I realized how freeing it can be to do something alone.
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Ranking a Decade of Marvel Movies: The Also Rans

We did it people. By giving Marvel our hard earned cash to see almost 20 movies over the last decade, featuring all the superheroes that we love and several that we had no clue existed, we aided and abetted the creation of an unstoppable juggernaut. With Avengers: Infinity War being released in a few short days after a decade of building towards Thanos’ showdown with the galaxy’s mightiest heroes, that train is not slowing down anytime soon.

But it hasn’t all been the smoothest journey through this shared universe. There are more than a few stops along the way that, if not for having the Marvel Studios banner safeguarding them from irrelevance, would’ve been immediately cast out and forgotten. I suppose that’s understandable. When you have 18 at-bats, you’re probably not going to knock it out of the park each time. Part three of this post will feature the eight Marvel films that I consider to be home runs, so by baseball standards the MCU has been more than cleaning up at the plate.

However, we still have to talk about the times when they struck out, grounded into a double play or popped out to the catcher (which as a former little leaguer, I always hated more than striking out). To be clear, I’m not referring to this first group of films as “The Also Rans” because I think they suck. While there will be a couple of rants and plenty of criticism, you can still watch most of these movies and be entertained. I just never feel a strong desire to do so outside of taking on another marathon of all the MCU films (which is getting very long, by the way) and one of them just happens to be the next one on the list.

But since these are my opinions and I may very well just be a cynical bastard, I’m including some feedback from both Kevin and my girlfriend, Natalie. If I’m being too hard on any of these films, they’ll let you know about it.

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My Year with MoviePass: A Quiet Place Review

Tired of my normal movie watching process, which amounts to me spending an inordinate amount of time searching through Netflix, Hulu, or illegal streams searching for the perfect movie only to be interrupted by my constant pausing to do the dishes, or let the dog out, or look at memes on Instagram, I decided to embark on a year journey of returning to the physical cinema thanks to the company MoviePass.

MoviePass is a subscription service that allows you to attend one movie a day at any cinema across the USA. There are minor limitations and exceptions but for the most part the entire world of cinema is open to you all for $9.95 a month (or, if you got lucky like me, $6.95 a month due to a promotional price).

I decided to use this year to explore different movies and to chronicle my experience. Lucky for you that means my movie review game should increase heavily. Most of my reviews will be short and sweet. My rating system will be pretty simple and based on the premise of MoviePass. I will tell you whether or not I would recommend someone who is not a MoviePass user to go out and pay full price to see the film in theaters. Meaning this is more about the experience of how the film plays in the theater than it is a full recommendation of the film. I might love a film but admit there was  no reason for the theater experience. Or I might not enjoy a film but be blown away by visuals that you need to see on the big screen.

I will also chronicle how much money I am saving (or losing) with the MoviePass service. Thanks for reading and click the jump to read about my first official MoviePass film, A Quiet Place.

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Let’s Talk About The Last Jedi

Unless you live under a rock, or plain just don’t like movies, chances are you’ve seen the newest entry of the Star Wars saga by now. It’s been quite the divisive piece of entertainment and whether it knocked your pants off or made you so angry that you were mean to Rian Johnson on Twitter, there’s no question that it made an impact on you. It sure as hell made a huge one on Kevin and I.

But here’s the thing. If we had all come away from The Last Jedi with warm feelings of nostalgia in our tummies and then immediately went home and stopped talking about the movie, because it was more of the same of what we come to expect from Star Wars, then you would know that Disney had just churned out a giant cash grab and wasn’t interested in trying anything new. And that would suck, because part of what made Star Wars great in the first place was that it tried things that were new.

Instead, Disney trusted Johnson to create something bold and original, and we are still having discussions about it over a month after its release. And that’s how you know this is much more than just another movie. Instead, it’s a piece of art that challenges us to rethink what we think we know about some of our favorite stories and characters, and that’s something that we desperately need in an age of cookie cutter sequels and tired remakes.

So Kevin and I are going to keep that discussion going. Feel free to chime in if you wish.

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The Girl On The Train and The “Woman As A Villain” Problem

Just the other day I was thinking about the lack of fearful lady antagonists in films and television. Off the top of my head I could think of two females that scared the shit out of me. Annie Wilkes in the Stephen King adapted film Misery and Amy Dunne in the Gillian Flynn adapted film Gone Girl.

By mere coincidence, the strangeness of the absence of the psycho female role came up again as I sat down to watch another book adapted into a movie. This time it was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

This film engaged my attention all the way through. But the ending got me back to my original question. Why does Hollywood fear villainizing female characters?

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